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Honey Dijon

Fresh from her set at Panorama music festival in New York, artist and musician Honey Dijon opens up about her incredible life journey, driven by passion, risk and imagination. A "facilitator of human connection through sonic expression",  Honey shares her emotional highs and lows, the importance of believing in your own worth and power, and learning that it's ok to not fit in a box.
Who is Honey Dijon?
Honey Dijon is an artist, DJ, culture vulture, vegan, dancer, yoga enthusiast, magazine and book hoarder, minimalist, deviant, misfit, lover of all arts, critical thinker, sexual renegade, tequila lover, workaholic, shit kicker, skin obsessed, procrastinator, go getter, Gemini, Margiela Tabi boot obsessive, multi disciplinarian, sarcastic, silly, complicated, funny, stylish, opinionated, world class traveller, boy crazy, doesn’t suffer fools lightly, and a sensual human being that loves Mexican food and scent!

What was your vision when you were younger, growing up in Chicago? Did the music you listened to back then, and the basement parties we’ve heard your parents used to throw, influence your career choice and artistic path?
I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a very long time. I just knew I loved music and I wanted to make that my life somehow. There was no such thing as being a professional DJ back then like there is today. It wasn’t something you could go to school for. In fact, I had many different jobs growing up, from working in hotels to waiting tables, and other things. However, I always bought music and went dancing and hung around DJs as much as I could. I happened to be born in a time and place that was the epicentre of the birth of house music culture: Chicago. It was everywhere. You couldn’t escape it, and I fell in love with club culture and the art of DJing, and through that discovered fashion because of what the kids wore to the club to express themselves. I bought and stole every fashion magazine known to man and somehow in the back of my head I know I was going to be a part of these worlds come hell or high water.

Has your vision played out as you expected it to?
Does anything? No, it has been a complete and utter surprise. All the odds were stacked against me so I just kept doing the things I loved and getting involved, and hoped it would work out. There was no plan A, B, or C. There still isn’t. However, there was and is passion, drive, risk and imagination, and the belief that this had to happen because nothing else gave me a sense of purpose, of joie de vivre!
"There was no plan A, B or C. There still isn’t. However, there was and is passion, drive, risk and imagination, and the belief that this had to happen because nothing else gave me a sense of purpose, of joie de vivre!"
How on earth did you start going to clubs at 12 years old?! Which was your club of choice to blag into and what would they be playing?
The world was a lot less policed back then than today. Most clubs you had to be only 18 to get in because they were juice bars. In many stations on the south side of Chicago, there were many dodgy kiosks that would make them for you. It was like 20 bucks, which is a lot for a 12 year old kid, so I lied to my parents; that I needed the money for some school function, and that’s how I got it! I got to hear Ron Hardy at The Music Box and Frankie Knuckles at The Powerplant. I have always been a very resourceful person. It prepared me for life in New York, LOL!

You’ve mentioned in interviews that listening to house music from such a young age was an emotional experience, rather than driven by the technical side or the DJ. How has the notion of a ‘DJ’ changed for you, especially now being one yourself and aware of the power that image, fashion and other creative elements have on your performance?
When I started clubbing, there was no DJ culture. The DJ was never front and centre, the music was the star. So you followed DJs based on the music they played, the environment created, and the emotional experience that resonated spiritually and physically with people. People were there to dance. Meet, mate, create, and participate. The DJ could look like Frodo from Lord of the Rings but be the sexiest thing in the world through your ears and body. Many DJs are more performers and entertainers than artists. All the waving the hands in the air business to me is like piling a lot of decoration on bad design. Technology and social media have almost forced the cult of personality of the DJ and the expectation of instant success. without developing and working on the craft of presenting music to an audience and the art of turntablism. I hang onto these principles and still work very diligently on my craft, because I respect what a DJ can be and do. I am a facilitator of human connection through sonic expression.  
"I still work very diligently on my craft, because I respect what a DJ can be and do. I am a facilitator of human connection through sonic expression."
A few years ago, you suffered horrific loss during a storage unit fire when many of your 7,000 strong vinyl collection and magazine and art books were destroyed. Did you manage to salvage anything at all? If you had to choose only five top records in your collection which would they be?
OK, first, my top 5:
Welcome to the Pleasuredome – FGTH
Nightclubbing – Grace Jones
Mesopotamia – The B52’s
Diamond Life – Sade
Bostitch – Yello
The fire in my storage damaged not only my things, even though records and magazines are just material possessions, but so much of my life was attached to them. I had every issue of Italian Vogue since Steven Meisel began taking the covers. Gone! French Glamour when Mario Testino and Carine Roitfield worked as a team. Gone! Victor Skrenneski poster of Iman from the Chicago Film Festival. Gone! Helmut Newton Absolute Vodka ad posters. Gone! I lost things that are irreplaceable. It was soul destroying for me, but from that I realised that I don’t own anything, nobody does, from my life to my possessions. It’s all on loan. So I carry all of that with me, but it would be nice to have those things around to inspire me. Thank god for Pinterest, but it’s not like having the real thing. C’est la vie!

What brought you to New York and how was/is NYC different to the roots you had in Chicago?
Sex, drugs, rock n roll, nightlife, fashion, grit, decadence, self expression. Dancing, beautiful people, art, and to find myself. I always say I was born in Chicago but grew up in NYC. Oh, and the Annie Flanders era of Details magazine and Paper magazine. I wanted to know those people, go to those parties, and live that life. So I came to NYC. I missed most of it because all the good shit happened between the blackout of 1977 and 1986. I think my life in NYC really changed on July 3rd 1981. The day that the article came out on the rare cancer that was found in 41 gay men. The party ended that day, and continued to take away two generations of the most highly creative men and women the world had ever seen.

Where are your favourite places to hang out in New York?
My house, LOL. I travel so much that being at home is my fave place. I mostly only go clubbing when I’m working and if a friend from overseas is playing. I always tell people: do you go and hang out at the office for fun and relaxation when you’re not working? For me, the club is my office now. So mostly gym, home, Casa Magazines in the West Village and Café Cluny. I live in a loop. Chelsea – West Village – Soho – Chelsea! Thank god all I ever need is right there! Whole Foods, my laundry mat is next door, I live two blocks from the train, two blocks from Chelsea Piers. All the galleries are over there. Heaven!

How did you get involved in the fashion world from being a house DJ? Do you feel the lines are blurring further between the two arts of music and fashion?
I lived in a New York before the internet, so you had to go out to meet and socialise, get laid, and network. It was magic because nightlife was so vibrant and so much cross pollination happened between nightlife, art, and fashion. Those worlds collided. Luckily, I worked at clubs where a lot of fashion designers and stylists would come to see what was happening and see what the kids were wearing, and that’s how I met a lot of them. I was asked to DJ some fashion parties and events, and eventually that led to doing music for runway shows. It was all very organic. I miss that New York.

How extensive is your involvement with a runway fashion show? Do you study the actual collection to decide on the music or do you make music for the catwalk ‘performance’? How different is it than making music for a club/party?
Well I’ve been working with Kim Jones at Louis Vuitton since he began designing for the house. We share a very similar vision when it comes to music, and Kim has a very deep knowledge about subcultures and nightlife, so he usually tells me his inspiration and we go from there. I will choose some things and he will present things, and it’s a very symbiotic way of working. It’s great to work with friends that are great artists. Through him, I have worked with Nile Rodgers, Giogio Morodor, and Nelle Hooper. I got to meet the artists that change music. In a way, it’s come full circle.
Doing fashion is different from clubbing because it’s not spontaneous. Every detail and timing is worked out for the show. Completely different way of music presentation. However, in fashion, music can often change at the last moment and that spontaneity of having to do that live in a club setting, if a crowd isn’t feeling what you are playing, prepared me for the quick change of pace of fashion. I can deal with that stress.

You’re one of the few black transgender women in fashion and music and, as such, you’re undeniably a major icon and role model for many people. However, the fact you are transgender wasn’t of much interest in the initial house music scene. Do you prefer to be recognised by your music?
I prefer to be recognised as an artist and musician first and foremost. No one wants to be reduced to just parts of themselves because not one person is just one thing. There are many parts that make the whole and I also think being trans is the least interesting thing about me. However, I am not naïve and unaware to the fact that it may expand perceptions about transfolk, people of colour, women especially; they can be more than minstrals, caricatures, fetishes, sex workers, and objects for people to use and abuse for their own pleasure. In that respect, I am very proud of the fact that I can be a mirror of affirmation for someone. As Laverne Cox often says, I am not a role model, but a role possibility. I like that.
 "I am very proud of the fact that I can be a mirror of affirmation for someone. As Laverne Cox often says, I am not a role model, but a role possibility. I like that."
You’ve been featured in a host of heavyweight fashion titles, from Vogue Italia to Style.com. How would you describe your style and what are the main influences now on how you dress?
Style associated with cultural movement and change are my main influences. My favourite moments in time, that continually inspire me, are New York City in the late 70s and early 80s, and Chicago in the late 80s. New York in that time period because you had the sexual revolution, women’s rights, gay rights movement, punk, disco, hip-hop, the East Village art scene. Clothes, music, and art all merged and cross-pollinated in ways like never before. Chicago because it was the beginning of the early dance culture, specifically house music, and a lot of the codes expressed through clothing let others know you were into this subculture. Things like riding boots and jodhpurs, Claude Montana, and Jean Paul Gaultier were highly covetable, and most Italian designers, from Versace to Gianfranco Ferre, and new wave looks from New York. Mind you, this was inner city black youth and gay people of colour with the most incredible imaginations, and not rich. I still get chills and often go back to these looks in a way that seems timeless to me.

Tell us about your new Cutler and Gross glasses that you’ll be wearing at your Panorama set in NYC. Why did you choose them and what do you love about them?
I choose everything based on feeling. They have to be bold, sexy, fun, and black! Just like me!

What are you most proud of?
That I’ve been able to support myself as an artist and put a roof over my head doing what I love. That I don’t need external validation to make me happy. That I’ve just been able to survive in this world and create a life for myself without a compass to guide me or mirrors of affirmation. I decided that I was the most special being on earth for myself, and the rest followed!
And what has been your biggest challenge or disappointment?
Not believing in my own worth and power. I’ve been chasing men, beauty, money, and success for so long because I thought that was going to fill the voids of so much of the fear and rejection that I experienced and internalised growing up being a misfit. If I was just as beautiful as a model, or had all the latest fashion, or the hottest guy, or be the best DJ in the world that I would finally be worth something. I’ve been told no so many times that I never believed it when yes came around. It was too good to be true. Pain felt more real than joy. However, it took a really toxic romantic relationship that I was in, and eventually had the courage to walk away from, that I began to really self reflect and realise that I never wanted to feel that way again. That no one can ever give me the things that I can give myself. As Eartha Kitt says, I want someone to share me, and be in love with me. That was my Oprah “Aha” moment that changed my life.
"As Eartha Kitt says, I want someone to share me, and be in love with me. That was my Oprah “Aha” moment that changed my life."
What lessons has life taught you?
Just because someone told you something doesn’t make it true. From your parents to religion, medicine, society, therapy, love. I think a lot of unhappiness comes from realising that no one fits in any box and if you try, it makes you miserable. Also, stop caring what others think about you. You have no idea what their emotional backpack is full of, and their thoughts of you have to do with their thoughts of themselves, and you can’t control that. Ultimately, what others think and feel about is their business, not yours. So get on with your life. Also, everything in western culture, from emotional well-being to dog food, is all about advertising, and is corporatized and commodified. I also tell myself that I have the power to internalise this or not.

How would you like to be remembered?
What an existential question LOL! I would like to think I have a lot more life ahead of me, but to answer the question, I want to be remembered as someone who ran out of f**ks to give, and did it how she wanted to do it LOL! All of it.

And finally… shades indoors? Yes or no!
We are not going to be shady, just fierce!